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a form by which the phenomena of objective reality are comprehended in thought, a form that includes within itself a consciousness of purpose and projections of further knowledge of the world and its transformation in practice.
The concept “idea” was first introduced in classical antiquity. Democritus applied the term “ideas” to his atoms—indivisible, intelligible forms. For Plato ideas are incorporeal ideal essences, which constitute the truly objective reality and exist apart from concrete objects and phenomena; they constitute a separate ideal world. In the Middle Ages ideas were understood as the archetypes of things belonging to the divine spirit; god created things according to his ideas, or ideal forms. In the modern period, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the theoretical and cognitive aspect of the idea came to the fore; the doctrine that ideas are modes of human knowledge was developed, and the question of the origin of ideas, of their cognitive value, and of their relation to the objective world was raised. Empiricism linked ideas with human sense perceptions and sensations; rationalism linked them with the spontaneous activity of thinking. The theory of ideas had an important place in classical German idealism: Kant called ideas notions of reason, for which there were no corresponding objects in sense perception. For Fichte, ideas were immanent goals according to which the Ego created the world. For Hegel, the idea was objective truth, the coincidence of the subject and the object crowning the whole process of development (see Soch., vol. 6, Moscow, 1939, p. 214).
In the Marxist-Leninist conception, the fundamental starting point is the materialist thesis of knowledge as a reflection of reality and of ideas as specific forms of this reflection. “All ideas are drawn from experience; they are reflections of reality, whether accurate or distorted” (F. Engels; in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 20, p. 629). However, an idea cannot be reduced to the registration of the data of experience. It is a reflection of the thing, quality, or relation not only in its present state of being but also in its necessity and potentiality, in its developmental tendency. Lenin regarded ideas as the highest form of the theoretical mastery of reality. He wrote in his conspectus of Hegel’s Science of Logic, “Begriff [the Notion] is still not the highest concept: still higher is the Idea = the unity of the Begriff and Reality” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 29, p. 151). In the idea, there occurs the fullest coincidence between the content of thought and objective reality. This is objective, concrete, comprehensive knowledge of reality, knowledge that is ready for its practical embodiment. These two moments of the idea, the reflection of objective reality and the positing of a practical goal for man, exist in an organic unity and give to the idea its specific quality and its place in the process of human consciousness. Thus, the idea is an active mediating link in the development of reality and in the process of practical human activity, which creates new, previously nonexistent forms of reality.
In science ideas perform various roles. They not only summarize the experience of preceding scientific development in one or another sphere but also serve as a basis for synthesizing knowledge into some sort of an integral system, performing the role of active heuristic principles for explaining phenomena and seeking new ways to solve problems. Depending on their content, ideas, reflecting social existence, influence the course of social life in different ways. Reactionary ideas, which distort reality and serve the interests of classes on their way out of the historical arena, function as brakes upon social progress. Ideas that accurately and profoundly reflect real processes and express the interests of progressive social classes help to accelerate social progress and to organize and mobilize these classes to overthrow the obsolete and to introduce the new and progressive.
P. V. KOPNIN